Some interesting research has been done by Chris Goodall, coming to the somewhat counterintuitive conclusion that at least in terms of material use, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures, UK consumption hit a plateau in the early 2000s, and has fallen away during the recession to approximately 1970 levels. See coverage in the Guardian.
The headline figures all refer to domestic use only, and clearly we now have much less of a manufacturing base here and import vastly more than in 1970. Yet the same seems to apply if you take the ONS’s Total Material Requirement (TMR) figures which factors these in. I’m hoping to see some more detailed analysis on the TMR data – looking around what people I know (and me) own and how often it gets replaced now compared to my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s I have to admit to being somewhat incredulous.
The other thing to note (see the linked Tim Jackson article) is that these figures seem not to include energy use, which is still rising, and both us and the world as a whole needs a substantial decline in resource use, not just stabilisation. But any hope at all at the minute is worth having, provided it doesn’t detract from people taking action.